For the first time in more than a decade, Oregon’s distance runners will have a new face leading the way.
Ben Thomas has been hired as associate head coach for cross country and track and field, replacing longtime Duck coaches Andy and Maurica Powell, who left for Washington in June.
Thomas, who will coach the middle distance and distance runners during track season, held a similar position for the last 17 seasons at Virginia Tech.
“We are beyond thrilled to welcome Ben and his family to Eugene,” Oregon coach Robert Johnson said in a statement released by the athletic department on Monday. “Ben has transformed the distance program at Virginia Tech, and has a proven record of success in recruiting, developing and mentoring student-athletes. We believe Ben will guide our distance program to heights that honor the incredible legacy of distance running here at the University of Oregon, and help take us into an exciting new era for Oregon track and field.”
During his tenure at Virginia Tech, Thomas coached 74 NCAA all-Americans and was the 2018 Southeast Region assistant men’s coach of the year both indoors and outdoors. The Hokies won the men’s distance medley relay title at the NCAA Indoor meet in March and had three men in the final of the mile. Outdoors, he led Vincent Ciattei to a runner-up finish in the men’s 1,500 meters, and Rachel Pocratsky to a fifth-place finish in the women’s 1,500.
Thomas was the national men’s assistant coach of the year in 2017, becoming the first ACC assistant coach to ever win the award. He led seven Hokies to individual ACC titles as the Virginia Tech men swept the ACC indoor and outdoor team titles.
Overall, the Hokies won 12 ACC championships during his 17 years.
“I am humbled to be given this awesome opportunity,” Thomas said. “I am excited to get started … I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to help launch a new era at Hayward Field and add to the championship legacy of Oregon track and field and cross country.”
In cross country, the Virginia Tech men won the 2012 ACC team title and had NCAA championship appearances in 2012, 2015 and 2017.
At Oregon he’ll be replacing two coaches who were part of 19 NCAA team championships, 40 individual NCAA championships, 37 Pac-12 titles and who coached 245 all-Americans since 2005.
He’ll also be inheriting two talented rosters that include 2018 NCAA 1,500 champion Jessica Hull, Katie Rainsberger, Lilli Burdon and Carmela Cardama Baez on the women’s team, and Cooper Teare, Blake Haney, Mick Stanovsek, Matthew Maton, Tanner Anderson and James West on the men’s side.
Thomas, a 1992 Virginia Tech grad, has also coached for one season Georgia, two years at Brevard College in North Carolina and Appalachian State, where he got his collegiate coaching start in 1995.